SHAUN CONNOLLY: Sorry Leo, they're just not that into you

LEO Varadkar is thinking about a same-sex marriage with Fianna Fáil — trouble is, they are just not that into him.

 The thrusting Thatcherite, and front runner to be next leader of Fine Gael, has gone a woo-ing and coo-ing with all the romance of a particularly bluff and belligerent Mr Darcy, and has shown scant regard for the pride and prejudice that has divided the two parties since that unfortunate business in the 1920s.

Health Minister Mr Varadkar rather provocatively told a meeting of young Fine Gaelers: “Coalition with Fianna Fáil would be a little like a same-sex marriage; it would seem wrong at first, but would probably work out fine in the end,” the Irish Mail on Sunday reported.

Unfortunately for Mr Varadkar, there are a number of things amiss with that statement.

Most importantly, extending marriage rights to same-sex couples does not seem “wrong” to the two people concerned, who merely want their love and commitment to each other recognised, and respected, by the State and society they support via their taxes — a belief which is apparently shared by the vast majority of people in this country, if opinion polls are to be believed.

Secondly, Fianna Fáil just don’t fancy you, Leo.

Despite being the only — and some might say, defiantly — same-sex party in the Dáil (20 men, zero women), Fianna Fáil is resisting Leo’s charms — or at least playing hard to get.

As one prominent Fianna Fáil TD told this column — on pain of anonymity, for obvious reasons — “When I heard what Leo said about same-sex marriage seeming wrong, at first, I felt like ringing him up and saying: ‘a marriage between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael would be more likely to be the same as many heterosexual marriages — starts off great, then becomes a bloody nightmare’.”

But being a political rogue, Leo is keen to keep the lady in his political life sweet, and insisted that coalition with Labour was “a marriage made in heaven.” Oh, how Labour leader Joan Burton must have swooned at that loving sweet-talk, Leo, but it looks like she might have had her suspicions about you Blueshirt boys and Fianna Fáil already.

Indeed, the Dáil was agog with talk of a political ‘love child’ that had grown out of control and now threatened to ruin everything.

But this was just down to Fianna Fáil’s environment spokesperson, Barry Cowen, being very pleased with himself when he described Irish Water as the Fine Gael “love child” of which Labour had now taken ownership.

However, Ms Burton had the last laugh. She showed her waspish tongue had not been chastened by the ugliness of being trapped in her car for two hours by demonstrators. She shot back: “If Irish Water really is the love child of Fine Gael, then Fianna Fáil had a hand in its conception.”

The reference was to the fact Fianna Fáil was the first to agree to bring in water charges, when it sold the country out to the Troika in 2010 — but was Ms Burton also giving vent to the subliminal feeling in Labour that Fine Gael are playing fast and loose with their affections?

Mr Varadkar’s proposition of a same-sex wedding with Fianna Fáil will hardly have settled Labour jitters — but at least they know that such unions are still illegal in this country.

This, despite countries as diverse as post-apartheid South Africa and Tory-led Britain extending marriage rights to same-sex couples.

But don’t tell the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland that, because they are not keen on talk of equality.

For the second time in three months, the BAI has made a bizarre judgement against a broadcaster for not being “balanced” enough when discussing same-sex marriage.

The BAI has chastised Newstalk Breakfast presenter, Chris Donoghue, for saying that he would vote in favour of marriage equality.

Leaving aside that a lot of the show’s colour comes from the pronouncements of co-host, Ivan Yates, who just so happens to be a former Fine Gael cabinet minister (hmmmm, I wonder which way he votes?), Mr Donoghue made his remarks during a discussion in the run-up to June’s Dublin Pride festival, and not in the strict 50/50 allocation of airtime during a referendum campaign — indeed, the discussion hinged on whether the then very shaky Government would survive until the autumn, let alone until the proposed spring date for the poll.

This comes after an equally disturbing BAI judgement on Derek Mooney’s RTÉ show, in which a discussion of marriage equality was deemed by the BAI to be too positive.

Strangely, when a person talks on the radio about how much better their life is thanks to their divorce, the BAI does not insist a hardline Catholic bishop must be brought onto the airwaves to immediately denounce their sin.

So what exactly does the BAI want presenters to say to maintain “balance”?

“Love and equality is all very well, I suppose, but, on the other hand, wasn’t it great in the good old days of the 1990s, when gays were still all officially criminals?”

Or, how about discussing the situation in Alabama in the 1950s: “Yes, desegregating buses looks good on paper, but do you really want to sit next to a black person?”

Or: “I’d love to give women the vote and equal pay — but maybe just the pretty ones?”

Funny, when presenters give their opinions on other, looming referendum subjects, like shortening the presidential term, lowering the voting age to 16, or scrapping the references in the Constitution to a woman’s place in the home, we do not seem to hear a peep out of the BAI.

It is the 21st century and we should really no longer see gay marriage or straight marriage — but just celebrate the love two people have for each other.

But, unfortunately, the sad reality for Mr Varadkar is that Fianna Fáil is not in love with you, Leo, and the soldiers do not see you as their destiny.


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